Federal judge upholds $234 million jury award against Apple in WARF case

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A federal judge in Madison on Tuesday upheld a jury’s $234.3 million damages award against computer maker Apple, which in October 2015 lost a patent infringement lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, UW-Madison’s intellectual property arm.

Deciding post-verdict motions, U.S. District Judge William Conley let the jury award stand, which was reached after a trial in federal court, and rejected Apple’s motion for a new trial in the case.

“In this case, the evidence easily supports the jury’s findings of infringement on all three disputed elements of the asserted claims of the patent-in-suit,” Conley wrote.

In motions after the jury’s 2015 verdict, Apple had contended that no reasonable jury could conclude that Apple infringed on any of the claims made involving WARF’s patent.

Conley also rejected WARF’s renewed request for a finding that Apple willfully infringed on processor technology developed at UW-Madison that is used in Apple products, including the popular iPhone and iPad, which could have greatly increased the damages award.

WARF’s request for a permanent injunction, which would have barred Apple from using the technology, was also denied by Conley, who instead awarded WARF an ongoing royalty of $2.74 per unit for any infringement that occurs after the entry of final judgment in the case. He noted that Apple conceded that the royalty was warranted, with the only issue remaining being the royalty rate.

WARF sought a rate that was three times the rate the jury awarded — believed to be about $1.60 per unit, based on the total damages award and the closely-guarded number of units discussed as part of the damages calculation. Conley called that “an ill fit.” Apple sought to delay setting a royalty rate until after appeals are finished, or to set the same rate the jury awarded.

Conley ruled that a rate of $2.74 per unit, which WARF had sought from the jury during the damages phase of the 2015, would be the rate WARF would receive, finding that “fair and reasonable” in light of the jury’s finding of a patent infringement.

Conley wrote that WARF and Apple are to work together to arrive at sales figures that apply to the ongoing royalty, but declined to order Apple to provide a formal accounting. Conley also directed WARF and Apple to discuss consolidating a separate but related lawsuit involving newer Apple processors which allegedly use the same UW technology. Those newer processors are in the Apple iPhone 6, 6S and 7, among other products.

Spokeswomen for WARF and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Conley’s rulings.

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